TODAY

TODAY   |  May 22, 2013

Mom reunited with kids: Okla. teachers ‘are heroes’

Janna Ketchie talks about the terrifying hours she spent trying to figure out what happened to her two children, who were at daycare in Moore, Okla., when the tornado hit on Monday afternoon, and describes her relief when they were finally reunited.

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This content comes from Closed Captioning that was broadcast along with this program.

>>> now another of the harrowing stories coming out of the devastation here in moore . a mother, during the storm, forced to take shelter not knowing the fate of her young children. here's ann curry .

>> reporter: it was a mother's agony. the agony of not knowing.

>> you can't get to your kids, who you're supposed to protect every day. you're just helpless.

>> reporter: 30-year-old janna kechy was hunkered down at a safe room at her job when this monster tornado barreled through this small oklahoma town. her children, miles away at a day care center .

>> i was thinking, i have no idea about my kids. that's all i thought about. i had no idea.

>> reporter: janna watched on tv as the storm headed straight for her children. her 3-year-old gracin and little braden, just 6 weeks old.

>> not knowing if your life's about to come -- you know, fall off -- you know, like your life is ending because you don't know where your kids are.

>> reporter: when the storm had passed, janna went outside and couldn't believe the devastation surrounding her.

>> power lines down everywhere. i couldn't do anything. i was basically trapped myself.

>> reporter: janna had no way to get to the day care center . her colleagues' cars tossed around like so much trash, no phone reception. hours passed. her desperation grew, but then, finally, a way out. a coworker's husband pulled up in a pickup truck.

>> if it wasn't for this coworker, i don't know what i would have done.

>> reporter: janna jumped into the back and sped toward the heart of the storm 's destruction. she ran to the er and there lay her injured son.

>> i just rocked him in my arms and just held him.

>> didn't say anything?

>> i love you.

>> did he say anything?

>> i love you too. he's got a head injury , but he is going to be fine. we are one of the lucky ones .

>> her boy safe, she began to piece together how they survived.

>> what'd they put on your head?

>> cots?

>> and padding?

>> the day care workers had piled cots on top of the children for protection and then their own bodies.

>> what do you say to those teachers?

>> thank you.

>> reporter: for covering your child.

>> risking your life to protect my kids.

>> i didn't think we were going to make it out alive.

>> reporter: abby larson manages the day care center . she says she never let the children know just how scared she was.

>> i told all the kids that we would hear a freight train and as soon as it was gone, we would get them right to their parents.

>> reporter: it was she who rode with them to the hospital.

>> what's this?

>> that's a fish.

>> reporter: as for gracin, he's not saying much about the ordeal. what's it like to be in a tornado, gracin?

>> it's loud.

>> reporter: though he escaped with minor injuries, the emotional scars might take longer to hear.

>> the first night after the tornado, he's already having bad dreams . already having bad dreams . it's going to take a while, but we'll get through this. we will.

>> we're going to be hearing more stories like this over the coming days and weeks and even months. and savannah, we're going to wrap things up from moore right now and aide back to new york. but we do want to say what we've seen here has shocked us, but also inspired us and we should thank the people of moore for their hospitality and generosity, even in the middle of their despair.

>> absolutely, matt. great coverage. we will see you tomorrow.